Kidd Adamz: Interview with Directors James & James
30th June 2019 by Will Stewart
Kidd Adamz was born and raised in the Scott Lake area of Miami, Florida: a Haitian-American who always cuts against the grain. Growing up he faced what seemed a binary choice between sport or crime until he discovered music as his outlet and he hasn’t looked back.
Directors James and James got in touch to tell me about their film, so I thought I’d as them a few questions about how they made it. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please introduce yourselves as film makers, and give me a bit of a background of how you got into film making?
James & James – We both got into film making through different routes. James Coyle’s been making films since he was a kid back in Omagh – on his skateboard making skate films with his mates. Skating and filmmaking has pretty much been his whole adult life. I (Jamie McCormack) got into film much later in life – a late 20s move into documentary and television as a runner and researcher and worked my way across into what we’re doing now. Both of us have always had documentary making in our sights and we realised we’d only get to make them how we liked if we went at it our own way rather than working with production companies and waiting for them to get a good project on. Better to just make the projects happen yourselves.
MadeGood – Is Kidd Adamz a typical example of the kind of work you do?
James & James – I guess it is. Our process remains pretty solid throughout and then the people we’re making films with and about are where the unique elements come into play. And there’s always different ways to approach things. We’re pretty fluid. That’s why making docs is so fun – there’s that random element that you’ve got to work with and ride through to get the film locked down. With Kidd we were out in Miami anyway and had been in touch with him via Instagram as a cool guy to maybe meet and make a film with. We’d asked him a bunch of questions and so had an understanding of his background and what he might talk about when we met – which meant we could drive about Miami picking up relevant shots. Then on one of the last days we had a window and we met up and grabbed a bunch of stuff. He’s a super creative guy and recognised that we wanted to make something with him – not just a document, I guess. So there was a creative respect going on which crosses boundaries. The film’s not about music or a scene particularly. It’s about Kidd Adamz’s perspective on things as viewed through a film we’ve made.
MadeGood – Do you always work together, or do you work on solo projects too?
James & James – As a duo the last 3 years we’ve worked solidly together. Sometimes something will come up and only 1 of us can make it and that’s fine – but even then we’ll usually have sat down and figured out whatever it is we’re looking to achieve beforehand so it runs similar to us both on the shoot anyway. We get along well and that’s half the battle if you’re off on a shoot – you want to be hanging with someone you like. It means that most every shoot we go on we always maintain a good vibe whether it’s work or personal projects.
MadeGood – This seems to me to be as much a film about Kidd Adamz as it is about underprivileged minorities, violence, racism, and Salt Lake Miami. How did you find out about Kidd Adamz, and what kind of film did you want to make, going into the production? Was it your intention to cover so many topics?
James & James – We knew we were gonna be in Miami and were on the hunt for interesting characters we could film with. James had come across Kidd Adamz on a Fader write up and thought he sounded interesting and he was making cool music with an interesting angle. James hit him up on Instagram and things developed from there. There was a definite plan in place for the type of film this was going to be – in terms of the different elements that make up the film and the type of shots and style we were looking to get. Then it was just a matter of working with Kidd to figure it out further and see what he wanted to do and was up for – which luckily was whatever worked to tell the story and he hooked us up with some locations and spots that were purely of and about him. What the film is about isn’t something we set out knowing. That’s all drawn from Kidd and his life and what he was happy to share with us when we were with him. He’s a creative open guy and understood that stories need truth and honesty to resonate and we’re lucky he was willing to open up with us.
MadeGood – The film looks really great. I see you worked with a DOP (Joshua C Fry), and a lot of it was shot on 16mm. Please can you tell me a bit about your working process with Joshua, and also about your decision to shoot on film. Did it restrict the production in any way?
James & James – We shot this film as a trio – with Josh as our DoP and then me and James. Josh is cool as he’s creative and flexible so when you’ve got to be swift and still get your shot he’s always able to pull it off. Film added another complexity to the process and it was enjoyable. We weren’t blessed with tonnes of the stuff so we knew what we got had to be the good stuff. We picked our shots with it and used it sparingly. We also had the ursa and the drone to work with so we were swapping between cameras at points when the 16mm wasn’t readily available to get a shot or to shoot the interview so we weren’t burning film on that.
MadeGood – The arial shots also look great, did you get into any trouble flying it through the city like that, or were you able to get permits in advance?
James & James – The fun thing about having a drone on a shoot is you can stop anywhere, send it up, and see what you get. See a landmark or something interesting or some mad lights and then take a birdseye perspective on it. We had no trouble flying it in the city. We weren’t taking it to the centre of town – we were more interested in the outskirts and urban sprawl anyway.
MadeGood – Kidd Adamz talks about his dark past being behind him, but I’m sure a life like that can be difficult to truly escape. Are you still in touch with him now? Are you confident he’s ’through the other side’?
James & James – Yeah we stay in touch a little and try to keep track on what he’s up to. He’s always releasing new music and putting out music videos and creative stuff. Kidd Adamz grew up in a tough neighbourhood surrounded by what seemed very limited possibilities and so he’s built and crafted his own reality and possibilities because those available weren’t what he wanted. It’s not like he was bad and now he’s good. He’s always been good – just that the opportunities weren’t there to express himself how he’d like. I guess that’s what we’re trying to say in our films – we’ve met people from all walks of life and they’re always good people we can relate to. With hard times behind them and maybe in front of them. Creative people. Looking to express themselves and share their passions. People aren’t too different anywhere you go.
MadeGood – What are you working on next?
James & James – There’s a bunch of stuff we’re working on at the minute. We’ve got a couple of short films in the edit – 1 is a short doc and the other is a dance/narrative piece we shot on 16mm in Kent. Need another day’s shoot for that too. Then there’s a short film script we’re developing up and the usual grind of film making in London. We’ve a bunch of lovely folk who keep offering us money to make films and so we’ll keep on doing that for the next foreseeable.
MadeGood – Nice one guys, can’t wait to see the next one!